by Junaid ul Islam
Over the last three decades, serious violent offences by youth under eighteen years of age have increased at an alarming rate. The juveniles are committing crimes at younger ages. The most disturbing about the increase in juvenile violent crimes is its contribution to certain types of more serious violent crimes. In today’s world children are also the victims of violent crimes at alarmingly increasing rates.
It is generally held that public perceptions concerning the extent and nature of juvenile crimes have resulted in a “get tough” public sentiment towards delinquency and a series of ‘get tough approaches’ to the treatment of young offenders in recent years. These new laws and policies have included in prosecuting younger children as adults for certain crimes as well as imposing mandatory, longer and more restrictive placements of adjudicated delinquents and other young offenders.
The demand of the public for an immediate response to youth violence has caused much of discussion, legislation and policy to focus on what to do with young offenders once they have been apprehended. Those who have studied and worked in the criminal justice systems, however, for some time have recognized the folly of attempting to solve delinquency by merely focussing on offenders after their criminal behaviour has taken place. There is always a concern as to how to reduce the risk of future criminal involvement. In all cases of juvenile delinquency rehabilitation is the key to stemming the increase in juvenile crime which can be risk-focused prevention.
There are several principles and themes, helpful in the design of prevention and various treatment programmes have emerged from risk-focussed prevention and research in the area of Juvenile Justice. Therefore, the delinquency prevention and treatment efforts must be comprehensive, addressing a child’s family life, educational and emotional needs, as well as his or her community environment. Apart from families, schools have the most impact on children. When most effective, schools provide children with or refer children for appropriate, mental health, counselling, recreation, tutoring, vocational training and leadership training.
The judges have played an important and crucial role ever since the movement for the clinical and rehabilitative treatment of juvenile delinquents have started from the beginning of the 19th century. In today’s world, a judge must be flexible and creative in disposing of the cases relating to juveniles. In areas of juvenile delinquency, justice must not be arbitrary. The judge must be well equipped to find out dispositional alternatives authorized by the law. A judge while dealing with the case relating to juvenile must utilize all the diagnostic and investigative tools. He must be aware of the treatment services and resources available in public and private sectors through individual as well as community care.
In the modern world, the judges in the Juvenile Justice System have a vast role to play. The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, in its publication, Children and Families first: A mandate for America’s Courts, describes the modern Juvenile Court’s Judge as having a number of characteristics and roles – (1) They have to advocate for the needs of children and their families, (2) Being educated in and having an understanding of family dynamics and child development, (3) Being committed to principles of treatment, rehabilitation and family preservation as well as having a regard for community protection and accountability; (4) Assuming leadership in improving the administration of justice for children and families by inter-alia taking an active role in the development of policies, laws, rules and standards by which these Courts and allied agencies and systems function; (6) Exercising the authority which exists to order, enforce and review the delivery of specific services and treatment for children and families.
The role of a Judge in proceedings involving juveniles accused of criminal behaviour has drastically changed in recent years. The Judge has a unique role to play by using his or her authority and influence to turn those potential and actively delinquent children into productive citizens of our society.
(The author is Nodal Officer, Training and Capacity Building, J&K Child Protection Services.)